Hope as SA leaders unite to fight Aids

2008-12-01 00:00

THE government has promised to scale up the programme of preventing the transmission of HIV from pregnant mothers to unborn babies and to drastically reduce new HIV infections in South Africa.

Speaking during the 20th World Aids Day commemoration held at Durban’s Sahara Stadium, Deputy President Baleka Mbete and Health Minister Barbara Hogan said government will make sure that no HIV pregnant woman infects her unborn baby with the disease.

Hogan was however quick to point out that government will not force, but rather persuade pregnant women to do HIV tests long before they deliver their babies. Researches show that about 35 000 babies died because government took too long to start administering drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Hogan recently replaced former Health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who became an international mockery when she proposed beetroot, lemon juice and garlic remedies for people living with HIV and Aids. Thabo Mbeki was also criticised for denying that HIV causes Aids.

There has been a shift since Hogan’s appointment and a common agenda in the way in which HIV is being managed. NGOs and civic organisations that have been at loggerheads with government for years yesterday united to lead the struggle against the disease.

UNAids executive director Peter Piot yesterday commended the new administration under President Kgalema Motlanthe and Health Minister Barbara Hogan, for prioritising the fight against HIV and Aids. “There is now accountability and a clear programme on the side of government.

“There is a new morning for South Africa. There is a message of hope and we strongly believe that this is a step in the right direction,” he said.

A recent study at Harvard university estimates that 365 000 lives could have been saved had the South African government administered anti-retroviral drugs to Aids patients and rolled out drugs to prevent the transmission of HIV from pregnant mothers to babies.

Almost four million people have died of Aids-related illnesses and some six million are infected.

Speaking during the commemoration, Mbete said one of government’s goals in the national strategic plan is to halve new infections by 2011. “For us to achieve this, we must own up, spread and practice the key messages for the prevention on new HIV infections in the country,” she said.

bmthembu@witness.co.za

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